30 June 2018

Viking expert certain Norse seafarers visited Miramichi, Chaleur Bay

I met Brigitta Wallace in 2004, when my wife and I visited L' Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland. She is passionate about her work and if she thinks the Vikings encamped on New Brunswick I choose to believe her, because the Greenland Vikings had 400+ - years to thoroughly explore what is now Canada and northern portions of the USA.

Wallace also thinks the settlement of Hop might be on New Brunswick; perhaps Straumfjord is there as well, because neither place has ever been found, and they are certainly somewhere up there. I wrote about both encampments in my first novel, The Settlers, An Axe of Iron Novel.

Someday, with luck, one or both lost settlements, or encampments will be found. (Ed.)


Archaeologist not hopeful of finding definite proof

Gail Harding · CBC News · Posted: Mar 11, 2018 7:00 AM AT | Last Updated: March 11

Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, says she believes Vikings had summer camps in New Brunswick's Miramichi and Chaleur Bay area. (Contributed/Rob Ferguson)
Did Vikings visit New Brunswick's Miramichi and Chaleur Bay areas? According to the research done by Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, they did. 
"I'm really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me," said the woman who's been studying Vikings for 50 years.

While she is certain the Vikings did spend time in Miramichi and Chaleur Bay, she says she is not hopeful of ever finding anything to prove it.

Wallace said she determined that the second location that Vikings visited in North America, known as "Hóp," meaning "tidal lagoon," was in the Miramichi and Chaleur region after she studied the Vikings sagas. She also drew on her extensive work at L'Anse aux Meadows, located on the very northern tip of Newfoundland. 

Sagas tell Viking history
The sagas are contained in medieval documentation from Iceland that goes back to the oral history of the Vikings. They were not written down until 300 years after the actual events occurred, so Wallace said the oral telling of the stories may have changed a bit over time. 
"There are two separate manuscripts...that talk about voyages to what must be North America because it's land west and south of Greenland." 
Wallace said while Vikings settled on Iceland and then Greenland, they continued exploring — either by accident or intentionally - to new lands. "These were people who just settled in Greenland in 985. They were immigrating there from Iceland." 

Wallace said when voyages began between Norway or Iceland and Greenland, it was inevitable that someone would get blown off course. She believes this is how they found North America. 

Two versions
The archaeologist said there are two versions of the story. One talks about Leif Erikson retracing the watery path of one of these off-course trips, but it only talks about one settlement where he built a base camp and made four expeditions. 

The other story features a different person and combines all the expeditions into one that go between two areas: "Hóp," meaning "tidal lagoon," a summer camp and a settlement further north described as being in fjord. 

Vikings settled at the L'Anse aux Meadows site on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. (CBC)
"After working a lot with the  L'Anse Meadows and what we found there, it's really clear that L'Anse Meadows is base camp...it fits with everything," said Wallace. "And from that camp... we know they went farther south and we know they must have gone as far south as eastern New Brunswick." 

Wallace believes those explorations were done through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which would have led the Vikings to find the Miramichi and Chaleur regions. 
Wallace based her conclusions on the finding of pieces of wood, butternuts and butternut wood at the L'Anse Meadows camp.

"And butternuts have never grown north of northeastern New Brunswick. They are not native to either P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, so New Brunswick is the closest location." 

Description fits
Wallace said the descriptions in the sagas match that part of N.B. well. 
"It talks about sandbars outside the coast, rivers and wonderful hardwoods and not the least, wild grapes. And it so happens that butternuts grow in pretty much the same location as grapes and ripen at the same time," she said.  
"So, whoever picked those nuts would have seen those grapes."

Situated in Newfoundland and Labrador, L'Anse aux Meadows is believed to be where the the Vikings, the first Europeans, landed in the new world. In 1978 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism)
Wallace said the area would have been considered of great importance because it was called Vinland in the saga, which means wine land.
"Vinland wasn't one particular spot, it was a land like Iceland and Greenland, a country or region." 

The archaeologist says she believes about 40 men would spend three months exploring the region, sleeping in structures built with turf with no permanent roofs, just a canvas-like material.
"And to find anything like that after 1,000 years, people that were very anxious I'm sure to take all their tools and belongings with them back, it's not very likely that we can ever find particular, physical evidence like we do have in L'Anse Meadows." 

Encounters with Indigenous inhabitants
But Wallace points out another strong indication the Vikings visited the area is found in the strong similarities of the descriptions in Leif Erikson's saga and Jacques Cartier's journal.
"It is exactly the same type of description." 

Her belief is strengthened by the saga's description of the Vikings encounters with most of the Indigenous inhabitants at "Hóp." 

Birgitta Wallace says the Vikings likely encountered the Indigenous inhabitants of Metepenagiag. (Radio-Canada)
"That would fit this area very well," she said. "It would be the ancestors of Mi'kmaq and you have Red Bank, Metepenagiag which has been inhabited for 3,000 years or more." 

Wallace is finding the sudden interest in this part of the story of the Vikings' expedition humorous considering she's been researching and writing about it for several years. She thinks an article she recently had published is the reason. 
"Somehow, it grabbed people's attention," she said with a laugh. "The interest in Vikings is astounding to me." 

23 June 2018

Unearthed - Cork's Viking history on show

Ireland continues to produce remarkable artifacts of the Viking Age for archaeologists. This time it is the southern city of Cork that has the limelight, and there is certain to be more from that city as the dig continues. (Ed.)

Bill Browne

June 2 2018 12:00 AM

Fascinating exhibition offers insight into everyday Cork life during the Viking era

3A reconstructed Viking era wooden house with at the exhibition in The Cork Public Museum

People are being offered a fascinating insight into the everyday life of Viking Cork through a thought-provoking exhibition taking place at the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald's Park.

Aptly entitled 'Below Our Feet', the free exhibition features a fascinating wealth of artefacts from the Viking era, unearthed during the development of the former Beamish and Crawford site in the heart of the city between November 2016 and March of this year. The former brewery on South Main Street is the site for the proposed €75 million Cork event centre and student accommodation.  

Excavations have uncovered evidence of the Cork's earliest urban layout dating back to 1070 - making them some 30-years older than any housing previously discovered in the city. 

The delicate and painstaking task of excavation was undertaken by a team led by renowned archaeologist Dr Maurice Hurley, with the resultant discoveries revealing fascinating details of the city's origins and positioning Cork as one of the earliest Viking settlements in Ireland. 

The lowest excavated items were found some four metres (12 feet) below South Main Street's current level, with the individual levels yielding finds representing almost every period throughout Cork's history and development. 

In addition to evidence that houses existed in Cork more than a millennia ago, the team also found the foundations of 19 wooden Viking houses from the 11th and 12 centuries, a perfectly preserved weaver's sword featuring a carved human face - thought to be more than a 1,000 years old - and three stone walls and a doorway at St Laurence's Church from the 13th century. 

Other artefacts found included a collection of spoons, ladles and buckets and a wooden thread-winder with a design of two horses heads carved into it. 

Also on display will be the wooden items and structures recovered that revealed 12th century Cork as a wooden town where all of the houses and many of the everyday objects used by their inhabitants were fashioned from wood. 

The exhibition, which is being held in partnership with Cork City Council and funded by BAM, was prepared by Dr Hurley and his staff in conjunction with students from the MA course in Museum Studies at UCC. 

It will highlight the findings, with a particular emphasis on the earliest excavated levels dating from the 12th and 13th centuries and the late Viking-age or Hiberno-Norse era, a period that saw a mix of Scandinavian and native Irish influences. 

Dr Hurley said the discoveries were important in terms of getting a greater understanding of life in Cork during the early medieval period. 
"The preservation of a great variety of wooden structures and objects of the late Viking age has been the greatest reward and cultural gain from the excavation in the medieval levels of Cork City. I hope the exhibition will be to the enjoyment of scholars and residents of Cork fascinated by the Viking era," said Dr Hurley. 

The CEO of BAM, Theo Cullinane, said they were "honoured" to be playing a central role in the development of modern Cork while also helping to "reveal a hidden chapter of its past." 
"The discovery of these artefacts gives a flavour of life and society in Viking era Cork and the historical importance the city played during that era," he said.

16 June 2018

More info from Fox News on my previous post about the terrific dig discoveries at the former site of the Pictish fortress in northern Scotland. 

Again, there is a video accompanying the article that may be accessed by clicking the title link below and reading the article on the Fox News site. (Ed.)


May 31st

File photo - Men dressed as vikings stand in front of a 40 foot-long viking longship as it is burned on Calton Hill in Edinburgh as the launch pad for the city's Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations Dec. 29, 2004. (REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell)
Marauding Vikings may have inadvertently preserved Scotland's largest Pictish fort by setting it on fire. At the site archaeologists found the fort's wall and beautiful hair and dress pins.

A ‘treasure trove’ of ancient artifacts has been discovered at a fort in Scotland that archaeologists believe was razed to the ground by Vikings.

Archaeologists at the University of Aberdeen made the remarkable finds at Burghead on Scotland’s northern Moray coast. The fort, which was once used by the ancient Pictish people, is described as the largest of its kind in Scotland.

The fort was burned to the ground in the 10th century, likely by advancing Vikings. Experts say that this has preserved items that would have otherwise rotted away hundreds of years ago.

Excavations at the site began in 2015. Last month a dig at the site revealed more of the fort’s secrets.

A bramble headed dress or hair pin (University of Aberdeen)
“When we started digging, we discovered that while the destruction of the fort in the 10thcentury may not have been good news for the Picts, the fact that so much of it was set alight is a real bonus for archaeologists,” said Dr. Gordon Noble head of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, in a statement.

In addition to a fortified wall, archaeologists found ornate hair and dress pins, one of which has a detailed bramble design. They also identified so-called “midden layers,” which are essentially ancient garbage dumps and are likely to shed more light on the lives of the ancient fort dwellers.

“We are digging in what is essentially the area that the Picts threw their rubbish but this collection of the waste products of their day-to-day lives is a treasure trove to archaeologists,” said Noble, who led the excavation. “What’s exciting is the level of preservation here. We’ve found animal bone which rarely survives in mainland Scotland because of the acidic soil. We are already getting really nice information about what people ate within the fort and we hope to extract a level of information we’ve not had for Pictish sites before.”

The wall face of the Pictish fort at Burghead (University of Aberdeen)
Dubbed “Picti” or “painted people” by the Romans, the Picts were a confederation of tribes in northern Scotland.

Much of the Pictish culture, however, remains shrouded in mystery so archaeologists are thrilled with the Burghead finds. “The Picts were a huge influence on northern Scotland but because they left no written records, archaeology is essential in providing answers in regard to their lives, influence and culture,” said Noble, in the statement.

Coastal erosion means that archaeologists are facing a race against time at Burghead. “The timber wall we found is only one to one and a half meters [5 feet] away from the erosion face,” explained Noble. “We hope to return next year to rescue as much as we can before it falls into the sea.”

Other archaeological finds in Scotland have also offered insight into the country’s history. Last year, for example, experts announced the discovery of a rare Roman coin on a remote island in the Orkney archipelago. Archaeologists and volunteers also found the location of a long-lost early medieval kingdom in southern Scotland.

In 2014, a stunning hoard of ancient silver, believed to have been used as bribes by Romans, was discovered with a metal detector by a teenager in Dairsie, in the Scottish region of Fife.

Experts in Scotland have also used 3-D technology to reconstruct the face of an 18th-century ‘witch.’

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

13 June 2018

‘Viking Age Destruction’ found to have preserved key parts of Scotland’s largest Pictish fort

From Medievalists, this interesting article on an archaeological dig on the coast of Moray Firth in northern Scotland.

It seems that the Viking destruction of the Pictish fortress during the 10 century may have provided us with a look into the life of the Picts that we have never had before.

I encourage the reader to read the article on the Medievalists site by clicking the title link if you want to view the accompanying videos. (Ed.)



When one of Scotland’s most powerful Pictish forts was destroyed by fire in the 10th century – a time when Vikings are known to have been raiding the Moray coastline – it brought to a rapid end a way of life which had endured for centuries.

The wall face of the Pictish fort at Burghead – photo courtesy University of Aberdeen
But archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen have now discovered that while the tenth-century fire razing of the fort, which is often attributed to advancing Vikings, may have spelled the end for Pictish life on the promontory, it has preserved material from the site that would normally have rotted away hundreds of years ago – offering them a unique insight into its history.
The team, led by Dr Gordon Noble head of archaeology at the University, returned to Burghead near Lossiemouth, in April to continue excavations at the fort – the largest of its kind in Scotland.
Although Burghead’s significance as a seat of Pictish power is well known, little archaeological work has been undertaken there as it was believed all significant evidence of its earlier life was destroyed when the building of the modern town commenced in 1805.
The Aberdeen team began excavations in 2015 and their efforts have already yielded significant finds including a Pictish longhouse and Anglo Saxon coins of Alfred the Great. This time they were granted scheduled monument consent to dig in the lower citadel for the first time and at the seaward ramparts of the upper citadel.
In the lower citadel their excavations uncovered a huge timber laced wall which would have stood more than six metres high and in the upper citadel remarkably preserved timbers. The complexity of the fort defences was documented in the 19th century work of archaeologist Hugh Young but Dr Noble said his team had expected little trace to remain. Instead they found the defensive structure preserved in amazing detail.
Dr Noble explains: “We are fortunate to have the descriptions of the site written by Hugh Young in 1893. He describes a lattice work of oak timbers which would have acted as an enormous defensive barrier and must have been a hugely complex feat of engineering in the early medieval period.
“In the years that have passed since he made his observations, the Burghead Fort has unfortunately been subject to significant coastal erosion and the harsh North Sea environment.
“But when we started digging, we discovered that while the destruction of the fort in the 10th century may not have been good news for the Picts, the fact that so much of it was set alight is a real bonus for archaeologists.
“We have discovered that the complex layer of oak planks set in the wall was burned in situ and that the resulting charring has actually preserved it in amazing detail when ordinarily it would have rotten away to nothing by now.”

Cathy MacIver of AOC Archaeology with a bronze ring from the excavations – photo courtesy University of Aberdeen
The level of preservation has allowed the archaeologists to take multiple samples for carbon dating which should provide new insights into the period when the fort was built, its construction and final destruction.
“What’s exciting is the level of preservation here,” says Dr Noble. “We’ve found animal bone which rarely survives in mainland Scotland because of the acidic soil. We are already getting really nice information about what people ate within the fort and we hope to extract a level of information we’ve not had for Pictish sites before.”
“The Picts were a huge influence on northern Scotland but because they left no written records, archaeology is essential in providing answers in regard to their lives, influence and culture. While it has long been known that Burghead was a very significant place, it was also assumed that its archaeological value had been largely lost due to the destruction caused by the building of the modern town.
“Our work so far has shown that this is certainly not the case. Instead we are starting to build a picture of Pictish resources being out into this site on a scale we have never found evidence for before.”
In addition to the fortified wall, archaeologists also found intricate hair and dress pins, one with a detailed bramble design and identified ‘midden layers’ which they expect to yield significant archaeological value in assessing the economy and everyday lives of the fort dwellers.
“We are digging in what is essentially the area that the Picts threw their rubbish but this collection of the waste products of their day-to-day lives is a treasure trove to archaeologists.
“What’s exciting is the level of preservation here. We’ve found animal bone which rarely survives in mainland Scotland because of the acidic soil. We are already getting really nice information about what people ate within the fort and we hope to extract a level of information we’ve not had for Pictish sites before.”

02 June 2018

Viking artefacts indicate industrious life within Cork city

Interesting article from the Irish Examiner on the big Viking news from downtown Cork, Ireland.
And no, I haven't misspelled numerous words in the article, the author writes in the King's English, which can be somewhat different than American English.
To view the video accompanying the article and the politicians posing for the camera - providing you have an interest in posed politicians - read the article on the Irish Examiner site by clicking the title link below.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Niall Murray 
The everyday homes and utensils of our Viking ancestors have been brought to life as archaeological artefacts from Cork’s early medieval city go on public display.
om the Viking era to go on display this week in partnership with Cork City Council, Cork PuMuseum and University CollCork.
While many of the artefacts taken from the ground below Cork’s former Beamish & Crawford brewery site in the inner city look like the possessions of dignitaries, the rich decorations instead reflect the craftwork of those who lived there nearly 1,000 years ago.
They can be seen up close in the free Below Our Feet exhibition that opens to general viewing at Cork Public Museum tomorrow.
Following specialist conservation work, the perfectly-preserved objects and fragments which can be seen publicly for the first time include what looks like a dagger owned by an important person.
However, the 30cm ‘sword’ with two back-to-back heads carved in minute detail above an interlace decoration on its handle was used in weaving to hammer threads into place on a loom. This was simply a personalised object, with its intricate interlace carved below the heads. People did their own work of this nature.
“In the early development of towns, lots of skills would have been put to use in each household,” said archaeologist Maurice Hurley, who led the excavation project for the Beamish & Crawford site’s developers Bam.
As well as turning up artefacts, nearly 18 months of excavations up to last March to facilitate building of the long-delayed events centre have added significantly to our understanding of Cork’s and Ireland’s Hiberno-Norse and early medieval history.
As explained in the Irish Examiner earlier this year, scientific analysis has shown that the earliest houses whose floors were unearthed can be dated to around 1070. This is 25 years earlier than the previously-proven existence of an urban streetscape layout in Cork, meaning the city and Waterford probably underwent formalised urban settlement in the same decades.
However, it is stressed by Mr Hurley, who has excavated Hiberno-Norse sites in both cities and elsewhere, that there is still evidence of much earlier viking presence in Waterford even if living arrangements were not organised in an urban fashion.
Some of the most fascinating of a dozen artefacts on display from the South Main Street dig are everyday items, one of which looks like a simple wooden pot lid.
On closer examination, as Mr Hurley said, it can be seen that the underside is threaded to ensure the yew-wood lid could be firmly secured on the vessel.
It shows signs of repair, as a split in the wood is kept together by tiny threads of wire, a sign that there was significant value placed on the vessel or its contents.
The archaeologists also found what is probably the wooden back of an early mirror, whose frame would once have held in place a thin sheet of reflective metal in the centuries long before glass was used. An oval loop at one end suggests it once hung on a wall or a post inside one of Cork’s early medieval homes.
The artefacts were taken from the lowest layers of the excavations funded by Bam, which has also supported the exhibition and associated conservation work.
Overseen by the National Museum of Ireland, it has ensured the items survived their removal from the ground whose marshy nature ensured they were so well preserved after centuries below the feet of brewery workers and other Cork citizens.
Cork Public Museum acting curator Dan Breen said adapting to this marshy surface inspired the use of clay blocks for the floors of the earliest homes discovered by Mr Hurley and his colleagues.
One such floor is replicated in a lifesize house entrance constructed in the museum.
Clockwise from top: The carved head on the handle of the ‘sword’used for weaving from the artefacts found during the excavations; The wooden back of an early mirror from the collection of artefacts found during the excavations in Cork; A wooden box with iron from the collection of Viking artefacts found during the Beamish & Crawford excavations in Cork; and the lid with a wire repair from the collection of artefacts found during the Beamish & Crawford excavations.
Pictures: Dan Linehan
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